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Oilers Have Some COVID Complications

Last week  NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly said he expects 98% of NHL players to be fully vaccinated by the start of the season. He added it would be 15 or fewer players who wouldn’t be vaccinated. Duncan Keith got vaccinated last week. He flew to the USA to get the Johnson and Johnson vaccine, because it is only one dose, and then he returned to Canada and is quarantining until next Friday. He will miss the first week of training camp while he is in quarantine, but will return next Friday and will likely play in the Oilers final three preseason games.

I’m not big on focusing on the past or re-living “what if” scenarios in my personal life, so I won’t on why Keith didn’t get vaccinated earlier. Whatever his reasons, I’m glad he, or any person who was on the fence, finally opted to get the vaccine. Belittling those who don’t have it won’t make them get it. It isn’t ideal he misses the first week of training camp, but it also isn’t devastating that he won’t be there. He isn’t a raw rookie.

I’m sure Jim Playfair and Dave Tippett would have liked him to pair up with Cody Ceci as soon as possible, but both are veterans and they should be able to figure out each other’s on-ice tendencies quickly. With Keith gone, it will mean more playing time in the preseason for William Lagesson, Philip Broberg and Slater Koekkoek.

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If Broberg makes the team it will be because of what the coaches see in preseason, not because of where he was drafted a few seasons ago.

“I don’t put a player on the team because he has potential,” said Holland when I asked about Broberg. “I’d put him on the team because he beat someone out for the spot. If we were in a rebuild I might have a different approach. If Broberg can beat someone for a job, that is great.”

I agree completely with Holland. The NHL is not a developmental league. It is about winning and Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl and the entire organization want players in games who give them the best chance to win now. It isn’t about developing a young player.

ONE PLAYER UNVACCINATED…

While Keith opted to get the vaccine, Holland confirmed the Oilers will have one player who isn’t vaccinated when the season begins and that will limit his playing time this season, and will significantly impact his wallet. I, and others, do know who the player is, but COVID is a personal health decision. I won’t report his name until he misses a game (and then it becomes a hockey story), because there is a chance he might change his mind before the season begins. ***Edit after initial publication. Ken Holland did mention Josh Archibald by name on Bob Stauffer’s show, so now I am comfortable using it here.**

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Unvaccinated players who are unable to play due to COVID restrictions will be suspended without pay for those days. This year the NHL season is 200 days. Players get paid for each day they are on the roster. So if a player is in quarantine for 14 days, but only misses six games, they are still docked 14 days pay.

For instance, if a player makes $2 million, then he makes $10,000/day, and each time he is in quarantine will cost him $140K.

When the Oilers return home from a road trip in the USA, this player will need to quarantine for 14 days.

I looked at the schedule and his decision to not get vaccinated will drastically impact his games played. And I have to think it impacts how he fits in with the team, since he has to remain in his hotel room on the road other than when he is at the arena. It is not ideal for the player or the team.

I broke down the Oilers schedule and the best case scenario I came up with is he could play 45 games. Realistically it will be fewer as two of those games he’d have come out of quarantine the day before and only skated once. Also if the Canadian government bans travel within the country for unvaccinated players. That would add more games he’d miss. And then you consider his conditioning, timing and how the team is playing. Him playing 30 games might be more realistic.

October:

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He would play the first five — three at home and then two in Arizona and Vegas.
Then they return home and he’ll be quarantined for 14 days. He’d miss the October 27th and 30th games.

Available for five of seven games.

November:
Still in quarantine and will miss three games at home on the 1st, 3rd and 5th.
He comes out of quarantine on the 6th and can practice for a few days and play five road games on the 9th, 11th, 12th, 14th and 16th.
He wouldn’t travel back to Edmonton, and would miss two home games. He’d remain in hotel in US for five days.
Then join the team in Dallas and play on the 23rd, 24th and 27th.
Team returns on the 28th and he’d start quarantine.

Available for eight of 13 games.

December:
He’d miss first six games while in quarantine.
Eligible to practice on the 12th and then play home games on 14th and 16th.
Miss road game on the 18th and remain in Edmonton.
Play home game on 20th and then final two road game, stay in US, miss road game in Calgary, then two road games to end the month.

Available for seven of 15 games.

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January:
Play first two road games, quarantine in Toronto. Miss road game there.
Suspended for next five games (five home, one road). Out of quarantine on the 17th.
Eligible to play on 18th, but unlikely since he hasn’t skated in 14 days.
Could play in final in four of final games games of the month (three home, three road). Could drive to Vancouver.

Eligible for seven of 15, but realistic best-case he plays in six.

February:

Available for road game on 2nd in Washington.
Fly to Edmonton and quarantine for 14 days then he’d be eligible to take part in “second training camp” post Olympics and play final three games on road.

Eligible for all four games.

March:

Plays first two road games on 1st and 3rd. Starts quarantine on the 4th.
Suspended for five home games. Out of quarantine on 17th.
Eligible for home game on 19th.
Likely doesn’t go on road for two games to Colorado and Dallas and remains in Edmonton.
Eligible for final four games of the month. If he drives to Calgary.

Could play seven of 14 games.

April:

Play home game on the 1st.
Eligible for three road games. Then stay in US while team returns home and he misses the one home game.
Then join the team in Minnesota for games on the 12th and Nashville on 14th.
Then start quarantine on the 15th and will miss five games.
Could be eligible to play in the final game on the 30th, but wouldn’t have skated in two weeks.

Eligible for seven of 14, likely only plays in six of them.

It will be a huge pain in the ass to be an unvaccinated player. He will barely get to associate with his teammates on the road or even at home as he can’t go to restaurants or other social settings with his teammates.

Then you factor in the financial loss. I had him being suspended for 83 days (assuming he’d agree to be suspended for the few days to remain in USA, rather than return to Canada for a game or two and be quarantined for 14 days). So that means he will lose 41.5% of his salary. Ouch.

The option is for the player to only play home games (41) and road games in Canada (nine) for a total of 50 games.

Then he would play five games in October, six in November, nine in December, 13 in January, none in February, 10 in March and seven in April. That might be and option, but he’d still miss at least 32 games, and more if they ban travel inside Canada for unvaccinated people.

And then playoffs arrive and if they play an American team his eligibility is a big concern. I think it will be difficult to have this player as a even a semi-regular in your lineup.

Holland’s final quote on the topic caught my attention. “I’ll give the person the appropriate time, and I’ll see where I’m at in a week, 10 days from now. We’ll see.”

HERE AND THERE…

Feb 28, 2020; Columbus, Ohio, USA; Minnesota Wild goaltender Alex Stalock (32) tends net during the second period of the game against the Columbus Blue Jackets at Nationwide Arena.

— Alex Stalock likely won’t play this season according to Holland. Stalock did skate in the “Beauty league” this summer, but he met with doctors in the past two weeks and the information he received led him to opting not to play. Last November, Stalock was diagnosed with myocarditis — an inflammation of the heart muscle — after he had received a positive COVID-19 diagnosis. He practiced with the Oilers last season, but was never an option to play. And unless something changes he likely won’t play this season either. Just a reminder of why you don’t want to get COVID. Even healthy people can have long-lasting negative side effects.

— Kris Russell will not be on the ice tomorrow due to soreness in his neck. This will give Lagesson, Broberg and even Phil Kemp more opportunity to grab the coaching staff’s attention. Kemp will start in the AHL, but a strong showing in the preseason could help him down the road. Lagesson needs to play with the same urgency he had at the start of last year prior to getting injured. When he returned from injury, he didn’t have the same desperation and intensity in practice.

— With Keith in quarantine, Russell and Dmitri Samorukov injured, Edmonton will open camp with 15 D-men, and that includes Filip Berglund, Vincent Desharnais, Yanni Kaldis, Phil Kemp, Michael Kesselring, Simon Kubicek, Markus Niemelainen and Max Wanner. The first few preseason games will likely have quite a few non-NHL D-men playing for Edmonton.

— Colton Sceviour in camp on a PTO and will wear #70 in camp. With a lack of right shot wingers, I think he has a very good chance of earning himself a contract this season.

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